CAMP SCHWAB, OKINAWA, Japan — The day started like any other day in Eastern Afghanistan, moderate temperature, sunny; hardly a cloud in the sky.
But for three Marines, a platoon of Afghan National soldiers and a platoon of soldiers from the U.S. Army's 173rd Airborne, July 13 would turn to bloodshed, sacrifice and one Marine's tale of heroism.
The U.S. – Afghan team was attacked by more than 200 enemy forces firing small-arms and rocket-propelled grenades.
Many members of the team became disorganized and discouraged facing the overwhelming odds.
Cpl. Jason Jones, one of three Marines embedded with the two platoons of soldiers, seized the initiative and began firing his weapon at the enemy while encouraging and guiding his comrades to organize a counter attack.
Jones' actions grew bolder as casualties mounted and the firefight intensified.
He sprinted across the terrain under heavy enemy fire to a wounded Afghan soldier and pulled him to safety as rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire exploded around them. But the fight was not over. Members of the U.S. Army platoon were pinned down.
"We got a call on the radio saying 'we're dying, we're dying and I'm the last one left,'" said Jones, the 24 year-old native of San Angelo, Texas. "I figured we needed to do something about it."
With bullets still flying, Jones again crossed 130 meters of fire-swept ground wielding a M-240B machine gun. Jones, with fire support from other members of the team, suppressed the attackers long enough to allow him to reach the wounded soldiers and provide life-saving aid.
For his valor, heroism and bravery under fire, Jones was awarded the Silver Star, the third highest decoration a U.S. service member can receive.
Jones is a four-year veteran of the Marine Corps. He graduated from Grape Creek High School, class of 2003, in San Angelo. He works in the logistics field with Headquarters and Service Company, 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division.
However, while in Afghanistan, Jones was serving a 10-month auxiliary billet as a mentor to the Afghan National Army while attached to Embedded Training Team 5-3.
According to Jones, he developed a bond with his Afghan and U.S. Army counterparts – a bond that was tested under fire and survived through resolve.
"Whether it's a Marine, sailor, or soldier, you can only hear suffering for so long before you have to do something about it," said Jones.
Jones said he took it upon himself to do exactly what Marines are taught – lead from the front.
It is easy to say Jones' actions saved lives that day, but they may have had another lasting effect.
"His actions built confidence and motivation in the Afghan National Army," said Sgt. Maj. Samuel Schmidt the sergeant major of 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division. "He was essentially a catalyst in changing the tide of the battle."
Though his actions are looked at as heroic by some, Jones was a bit more humble in describing his actions following an awards ceremony on Camp Schwab April 2 where Lt. Gen. Richard C. Zilmer, III Marine Expeditionary Force commanding general, pinned on his Silver Star.
"We were just taking care of business," Jones said. "A firefight that big opens your eyes to what war is really like. I wouldn't call myself a hero. The real heroes are the ones that gave their (lives) – and I'm wearing this medal for them."